How many exceptions does one need to invalidate a rule?

How about the rules of grammar. Remember the sacrosanct spelling rule “i before e, except after c” that was pounded into our heads over and over?

  • Listed here are 409 words that break the rule: agapeic, albeit, alzheimer, anaheim, apartheid, apneic, apogeic, braunschweiger, caducei, caffein, caffeine, caffeines, caffeinic, caffeins, casein, caseins, choreic, codein, codeine, codeines, codeins, coheir, coheirs, counterfeit, counterfeited, counterfeiter, counterfeiters, counterfeiting, counterfeitly, counterfeitness, counterfeits, cruzeiro, cruzeiros, cuneiform, decaffeinate, decaffeinated, decaffeinates, decaffeinating, dei, deice, deiced, deicer, deicers, deices, deicidal, deicide, deicides, deicing, deific, deifical, deification, deifications, deified, deifier, deifiers, deifies, deiform, deify, deifying, deionization, deionizations, deionize, deionized, deionizes, deionizing, deoxyribonucleic, desoxyribonucleic, diarrhoeic, edelweiss, edelweisses, eider, eiderdown, eiders, eidetic, eidola, eidolon, eidolons, eidos, eiffel, eikon, einstein, einsteinium, eire, eisenhower, eisteddfod, eisteddfods, eisteddfodau, either, fahrenheit, feinschmecker, feinschmeckers, feist, feistier, feistiest, feists, feisty, foreign, foreigner, foreigners, foreignness, forfeit, forfeitable, forfeitableness, forfeited, forfeiting, forfeits, forfeiture, forfeitures, frankenstein, frankensteins, fraulein, frauleins, geiger, geisha, geishas, gemutlichkeit, gesundheit, glutei, gneiss, gneisses, gneissic, heifer, heifers, heigh, height, heighten, heightened, heightening, heightens, heighth, heighths, heights, heil, heiled, heiling, heils, heinie, heinies, heir, heirdom, heirdoms, heired, heiress, heiresses, heiring, heirless, heirloom, heirlooms, heirs, heirship, heirships, heist, heisted, heister, heisters, heisting, heists, herein, hereinafter, hereinto, heterogeneity, holstein, holsteins, homogeneity, howbeit, hygeist, hygieists, ileitis, inhomogeneities, inveigle, inveigled, inveiglement, inveigler, inveiglers, inveigles, inveigling, jadeite, jadeites, janeiro, kaleidoscope, kaleidoscopes, kaleidoscopic, kaleidoscopically, keister, keisters, kinaestheic, kleig, lactoprotein, leipzig, leister, leisure, leisured, leisureless, leisurely, leisures, leitmotif, leitmotifs, liechtenstein, lipoprotein, madeira, madeiras, mallei, marbleization, marbleize, marbleized, marbleizes, marbleizing, marseillaise, marseille, marseilles, meioses, meiosis, meiotic, monseigneur, mullein, mulleins, neither, nereid, nereides, nereids, nereis, nisei, niseis, nonforfeitable, nonforfeiture, nonforfeitures, nuclei, nucleic, nuclein, nucleoprotein, obeisance, obeisances, obeisant, oneida, oneidas, onomatopoeia, onomatopoeic, onomatopoeically, osteitic, osteitis, peignoir, peignoirs, peins, peiping, pharmacopeia, pharmacopeias, pharmacopoeia, pharmacopoeias, phenolphthalein, plebeian, plebeians, pleiades, pleistocene, poltergeist, poltergeists, poseidon, preinaugural, preindustrial, preinsert, preinserted, preinserting, preinserts, preinstruct, preinstructed, preinstructing, preinstruction, preinstructs, preintimation, protein, proteinaceous, proteins, reich, reified, reifier, reifiers, reifies, reify, reifying, reinter, reinters, reivers, reiving, reveille, reveilles, ribonucleic, seborrhoeic, seidlitz, seige, seigneur, seigneurage, seigneurs, seignior, seigniorage, seigniorial, seigniors, seignorage, seignories, seignory, seine, seined, seiner, seiners, seines, seining, seism, seismal, seismic, seismically, seismicity, seismism, seismisms, seismogram, seismograms, seismograph, seismographer, seismographers, seismographic, seismographs, seismography, seismological, seismologist, seismologists, seismology, seismometer, seismometers, seismometric, seisms, seisure, seizable, seize, seized, seizer, seizers, seizes, seizing, seizings, seizins, seizor, seizors, seizure, seizures, sheik, sheikdom, sheikdoms, sheikh, sheikhs, sheiks, sheila, simultaneity, sobeit, sovereign, sovereignly, sovereigns, sovereignties, sovereignty, speiled, spontaneity, stein, steins, subnuclei, surfeit, surfeited, surfeiting, surfeits, surveil, surveillance, surveillant, surveils, their, theirs, therein, thereinafter, tracheids, unveil, unveiled, unveiling, unveils, ureic, veil, veiled, veiledly, veiler, veilers, veiling, veilings, veils, vermeil, villein, villeinage, weiner, weiners, weir, weird, weirder, weirdest, weirdie, weirdies, weirdly, weirdness, weirdo, weirdoes, weirdos, weirds, weirdy, weirs, wherein, whereinsoever, zeins, zeiss, zeitgeist.


  • Here are 102 words that break that portion of the rule “i before e, except after c:” abortifacient, ancien, anciens, ancient, ancienter, ancientest, anciently, ancientness, ancients, bioscience, biosciences, bioscientist, boccie, calefacient, coefficient, coefficients, cogencies, concierge, concierges, conscience, conscienceless, consciences, conscientious, conscientiously, conscientiousness, curacies, deficiencies, deficiency, deficient, deficiently, delirifacient, efficiencies, efficiency, efficient, efficiently, facie, facies, faience, faiences, farcies, financier, financiers, gaieties, gaiety, geoscientist, geoscientists, glacier, glaciered, glaciers, hacienda, haciendas, inefficiencies, inefficiency, inefficient, inefficiently, insufficiencies, insufficiency, insufficient, insufficiently, intersocietal, liquefacient, nascencies, nescient, nescients, neuroscience, nonscientific, objicient, omniscience, omniscient, omnisciently, overconscientious, prescience, prescient, prescientific, proficiency, proficient, proficiently, pseudoscientific, pseudoscientifically, science, sciences, scientific, scientifically, scientist, scientistic, scientists, societal, societies, society, specie, species, stupefacient, subspecies, sufficiencies, sufficiency, sufficient, sufficiently, testacies, unconscientious, unconscientiously, unscientific, unscientifically.
  • Are these 500+ exceptions the exceptions that prove the rule? How many exceptions must one discover to invalidate the rule? Millions? Trillions?

Michael Michalko

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